Justin Trefgarne’s directorial debut carries with it an intriguing premise, a hypothetical scenario that lays the foundations for what should be a fascinating science-fiction thriller. The idea is simple; set in the not-too-distant future, drugs have been legalised – however simple is the last word you’d use to describe this incoherent narrative, that brings a myriad of factors into play, to make for a frustratingly convoluted experience.

All classes of drugs are now legal, with the powerful, licensed manufacturer Ambro – led by the tyrannical Todd Ambro (James Callis) dominating the market. But that doesn’t put an end to black market dealers plying their trade in the shadows of society – and it’s down to the police officers, known as ‘Drecks’, to keep the streets clean – and Ambro rich. Which is where Frank Grieves (Elliot Cowan) comes into play, as a Dreck who puts his life at risk to try and get to the bottom of a new, dangerous substance being distributed on the streets, and it seems his only witness and route in to this criminal underbelly, is Eva Gray (Elodie Yung) – but she’s not willing to cooperate.

The debate about legalising drugs is a pertinent one that never seems to go away, so to have a film set in the future depicting the ramifications of this theory, has the potential to fascinate – but Trefgarne gets somewhat bogged down in his commitment to designing a contrived futuristic landscape, seemingly more concerned at what technological advances we would have made, rather than use this premise as a means of studiously exploring society and the characters within it. We lose sight of any sense of humanity, thanks to the inclination to focus so heavily on the science-fiction elements. Trefgarne does attempt to bring in Frank’s family as a means of forming an attachment between the viewer and the protagonist, but it’s just another theme for us to handle, and we’re already struggling to balance everything else.

Narcopolis just needs some direction and focus – it’s so imperative we abide by the world at hand, given the fantastical, surrealistic elements, but it’s a struggle to fully suspend our disbelief when so much is required of us. It’s a huge positive to see filmmakers burst onto the scene with the same degree of ambition that Trefgarne is showing with this endeavour, because we need more visionaries taking risks, but in this case, it’s that very same ambition which proves to be the film’s very undoing.